Problem Solving – The “Whack A Mole”© Method

Ever watch young kids try the arcade game where they hammer the moles into oblivion? As the game progresses, they hammer the moles harder and harder. The older kids quickly realize that no matter how hard they hit the moles, another one is going to pop up. They generally walk away, refusing to play anymore. Ahem, leaders and supervisors – a lesson to take to heart?

Simply addressing the symptoms of an issue within your organization is not going to result in any meaningful solution to your problems. And if you keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome, you’ve just succeeded in demonstrating Einstein’s definition of insanity.

A key component to problem solving is the correct and accurate identification of the cause of the problem. But I think that’s the issue. Identification of the underlying issue seems so simple at first. When the identification doesn’t come easily, the tendency is to revert to looking at the symptoms because they’re more obvious and easier to address. Address the symptom, hammer another mole and problem solved. NO! Symptom addressed.

Here’s a practical suggestion: Put the hammer down. Sit down, take a deep breath, and get a plan together. Put together a quality work team to begin the problem solving stage. Talk with AND LISTEN to the people involved in the problem situation and those who have experience handling such issues. After collecting information, work together to develop quality responses. Communicate with the people involved in the situation, as well as the entire organization. Decide on your best solution and implement it. Use the evaluation phase to assess how well the solution is working. If it’s working, great! If not, make the necessary changes to either fix the implemented solution or toss it out and implement one of the other solutions developed previously. It’s hard work but worth the effort. And if you want to pick up the hammer and whack something, take your kids to the arcade and see how many moles you can whack.

National Crime Victims Rights Week: 8 – 14 April 2018

Sunday, 8 April, marked the beginning of a week long recognition of the importance of letting crime victims know of their rights within our criminal justice system. Many organizations, especially NOVA and other victim advocacy agencies, are doing special events to inform the public of the many services available to assist crime victims. Here in the Phoenix area, a local church, the Church of the Advent in Sun City West, is hosting an information session with members of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. Attendees will hear about different types of scams which specifically target the elderly. The focus of this session on Saturday, 14 April (10 a.m. to noon) is to let potential targets know what they can do to minimize their chances of being victimized. Unfortunately, the reality of today’s world is that many elderly residents will be subjected to criminal behavior. The presentation will also include information on what to do in the event a person becomes a victim of criminal conduct.
Our criminal justice system is well served by a dedicated and passionate group of individuals who serve as victim advocates throughout our country and our military. Almost on a daily basis they see individuals at their lowest moments, many of whom have suffered severe physical and emotional trauma. Victim advocates often bear the brunt of the anger, the outrage, and sometimes a complete emotional breakdown as they figuratively walk with the victim through the process of prosecution, trial and conviction, sentencing, and hopefully, the start of the healing process. They do an extraordinary job for every victim they meet, oftentimes completely in the background. They’re so successful at working in the background that many members of our communities have little to no knowledge of what victim advocates do. Suffice to say that victim advocates are a special group of individuals, much deserving of our support and respect. I, for one, am extremely thankful that we have such a dedicated group of professionals who selflessly and tirelessly work to make crime victims whole again.

Implementing Change in Difficult Times


Please take a moment to read about the workshop now offered by PSC:


The hard reality of today is that individuals and organizations of all types are expected to provide better and more detailed services with fewer human and fiscal resources.  When fiscal resources become constrained, agencies naturally move to identify areas for cost savings, and professionals are confronted with the possibility of losing their jobs.  For example, organizations nationwide have been forced to re-design their programs and reduce staff while simultaneously adopting Evidence Based Practices (EBP), or a “doing what works” initiative aimed to maintain or increase the bottom line.  The remaining staff are given extra duties and may experience increased stress, decreased motivation, and reduced performance.  Despite being an almost every day occurrence in personal and professional lives, change also evokes anxiety and stress reactions in those impacted directly or indirectly.  Change, when proposed and implemented, can bring about new workplace conflict or exacerbate conflict already occurring.  All of this can contribute to decreased job performance, health issues among the staff, lower job satisfaction, and higher employee turnover, among other things.

What is the purpose of the proposed workshop for leaders and managers?  It provides an environment which explores ways to implement change while reducing conflict and stress that may enable the organization to implement change while maintaining employee wellness and motivation, thus positively impacting the organization’s bottom line.

In the workshop the participants will be asked to see how change is an everyday occurrence in both their personal and professional lives.  In addition, a goal of this training is to help reduce the stress associated with change and to reduce the potential for workplace conflict by assisting participants in correctly identifying the source of the conflict and developing realistic approaches to resolving it.  In essence, leaders and managers will see how conflict mediation can be used to help reduce stress and anxiety within the workplace.  In the discussions the participants will seek a greater understanding of what conflict mediation approaches might best suit their personal leadership or management style.

Participants will engage in discussions concerning the importance of effective communication.  Characteristics of effective communicators will be shared and participants will be encouraged to practice the techniques to enhance their conflict mediation skills while also developing realistic implementation programs for change.

Principles of effective change management will be presented, along with discussions on how to incorporate those skills into personal leadership styles.  Effective implementation of change comes about because leaders are willing to manage the changes, not be managed by them.

The workshop discussion will be guided by the principles of both critical and creative thinking.  These skills will be called upon as we engage in our discussions and activities for this workshop.

The objectives of this workshop are:

  • Describe the stress reaction and its impact upon our personal and professional lives.
  • Determine effective approaches to dealing with workplace conflict.
  • Apply appropriate conflict mediation skills to help resolve conflict.
  • Examine the characteristics of effective communicators.
  • Develop an understanding of some core principles of change management.

Interested:  Contact us to schedule a presentation of this workshop for your organization.


CHANGE – Friend or foe?

I’ve been looking at any number of organizations which are currently undergoing change. Despite all the research, change is still seen as something very negative and implementing change remains a difficult mountain to climb. Why is that?

Let’s be honest. Change causes anxiety. Will I get to keep my job? Am I still a valued member of the organization?

There are any number of organizations which implement change smoothly, with little to no disruption to the productivity and job satisfaction. What do they do that works?

Probably the key thing is communication. When a change is being considered, leaders within the organization need to let the staff know what’s going on. Leaving it to the rumor mill is a surefire way to creating dissatisfaction. Ask the staff for their thoughts on how best to implement the change. Use the experience within the staff to quickly identify potential problem areas and have the staff work with management to develop realistic solutions to those problems should they develop.

Another key is making sure that the staff is provided with opportunities for training in the new way of doing things.  This can help insure that the staff gets the training they need  which prepares them for the new way of doing things, but it also sends an important message – they are considered valued assets to the organization. When downsizing has to occur, the organization can take a very positive step by insuring that resources and retraining are available to help people expand their skill sets and find employment in other areas. Simply letting folks go with the attitude of “don’t let the door hit you as you leave” paints the organization in a very negative light, one which is not easily countered. Word of mouth will insure that quality recruits will take a second look at an organization that doesn’t value its staff.

Change might not be our friend but we need to make sure we’re not turning it into an unbeatable foe, either.

Leaving Our Comfort Zones (it’s all for the good!)

I had the privilege of attending the recent annual symposium of the National Organization of Victim Assistance (“NOVA”) in San Diego this week.  I was in the company of well over 1500 victim advocates who exemplify the meaning of being passionate about their calling to help others.  I was honored to do a presentation at one of the breakout sessions where I got to talk with many of the attendees on a more personal basis.  My participation in the symposium energized my commitment to seeing our grass roots endeavor through to a successful conclusion.

The conversations I had with many of those at the symposium confirmed one thing for me.  All of us, and I am definitely including myself in this, will need to leave our comfort zone of working in the background.  The agenda that has come together will demand our best effort even when we face challenges and potential setbacks.  Those events will simply be opportunities for us to excel.

Please join with me in this project.  I am confident that our efforts will be successful in getting the national registry of child abusers fully operational. We will also be successful in changing the way in which child abusers are sentenced – focusing on the harm that was done to the child victim(s), rather than what is expedient.  The time is now and the hard work begins today.

Impatiently Awaiting the Arrival of Spring

I don’t know about you but I’m ready for spring to come and stay for several weeks. My move to Arizona several years ago was deliberate – I don’t do cold and wet weather any more. But this spring has been weird. When folks back east tell me they’re having warmer temperatures than I’m experiencing, that’s just wrong on all levels.
I’m going to guess that by now you all are thinking I’ve lost my focus. What does the weather have to do with leadership? Don’t worry. I’m about to connect the dots.
Think about your own mood and approach to the work day when you wake up to find that once again it’s overcast and it’s been a few days since you’ve seen blue skies and felt the warmth of the sun. Think about your reaction when you have to go to the office in the snow/rain – again. How many of us acknowledge that our staff’s work performance can be and likely is affected by each individual’s response to the gloom, cold, and wet of late winter/early spring?
Is your management team aware of how weather can impact job performance all while knowing that in about a month or so things are going to get better? Or do you and your management team take a “suck it up, it’s all about the bottom line” approach? Actually, it’s only somewhat about the bottom line. More accurately, it’s about your people. Take good care of them and they’ll take care of the bottom line for you.
Just a little something for us all to think about. Now, I’m off to watch another harbinger that better weather is coming – baseball’s Cactus League spring training is in full swing!

A Pleasant Surprise

I recently experienced a problem with some computer hardware. A keyboard which was put into service in April suddenly had about ten keys which no longer had any markings on them. It was difficult to type quickly without having to constantly check where my fingers were. Frustration level – high. In mid July I wrote a letter to the CEO of Logitech, Mr. Darrell, explaining the situation and noting that I was disappointed in the durability of what is otherwise an excellent keyboard.

Now for the pleasant surprise – within a week I received an  e-mail from a customer service representative who asked that I provide some additional information, including photos of the keyboard. A few days later I was informed that I would be receiving a new keyboard. The new equipment arrived this afternoon and it is a pleasure  to type again. This surprise is all the more pleasant because a replacement was not my intent. As a matter of fact I had already purchased the replacement the same day I sent my letter but had not installed it as yet.

Mr. Darrell and his staff at Logitech appear to appreciate the importance of quality customer service and professionalism. It is gratifying to see that a positive approach was taken to resolving what is in the overall scheme of things a rather minor problem.  I hope that there is a consistency between the quality of their customer service and the treatment of staff.  Such consistency will insure that job related issues will be consistently and appropriately addressed with positive resolutions the likely outcome.  A win/win for the organization.




A Paradigm Shift

In a recent chat, Jay Block (author of the bestselling, “5 Steps to Rapid Employment”) made the observation that a near record number of job openings had been reported in March.  The problem is finding qualified individuals to fill those positions.  He noted that companies and colleges need to take a more collaborative approach to insure that a skilled workforce is available to fill positions as they open.  Job coaches have to know exactly what skills are needed so they can do a better job of coaching and advising their clients in identifying and mastering the skill sets needed.  That’s where the new paradigm shift needs to come in.  In my assessment, communities, companies, and colleges need to enter into effective partnerships. Companies can use the colleges to help insure that individuals are taught the necessary skills to be productive employees.  Colleges can use the companies as sources of information on what skills are needed, and to help their students land well paying jobs.  Communities need to support such collaborations because as companies relocate, communities need to be able to provide quality neighborhoods, public schools, and community services.

This partnership cannot be in name only, just because it looks good in a press release.  The partnership has to be an active, collaborative one. Communities that fail to support such partnerships will lose out on having companies relocate to their area, thereby losing out on the revenue income as a result of new people moving into the community.  Colleges will lose out on the chance to increase enrollments, and companies will lose out on having qualified workers readily available.

Now the challenge is to find community leaders, business leaders, and leaders within higher education willing to let go of the past and implement effective new approaches.

Our Fresh Approach!

Several weeks ago we noted that change was coming to Problem Solving Consultants. We’re pleased to now share our fresh approach.

We are now affiliated with the Jay Block Companies, LLC.  As many of you know, Jay is renowned in the world of résumé writing and career counseling, as well as his work in motivation and empowerment.  After working with Jay in achieving my certification as an empowerment and motivational coach, he and I continued our conversations.  Last year Jay offered us an opportunity to help bring job search techniques and résumé writing into the 21st century reality that is the global job market.  Since Angela and I both teach at the college level, we think our affiliation with Jay will help us prepare our students for the reality of their job search in today’s market, as well as preparing them for the changes to come.  We will be utilizing Jay’s most recent program, set out in his bestseller, “5 Steps to Rapid Employment.”

Problem Solving Consultants has received accreditation by the Better Business Bureau in Arizona.  We are very pleased with this recognition as we have worked hard to establish ourselves as ethical professionals and consultants.

Finally, and most exciting to us, we are adding a new service.  Angela Buer is a recognized expert with the online presentation format of PREZI and both Angela and I are very experienced at developing training and teaching materials, especially materials used in conjunction with that format.  Our new service will be made available to organizations seeking to update and refresh their training materials and/or change their current presentation format to PREZI.  We are also very experienced in the development of workshops for presenting new materials and training others to make such presentations.  We are looking forward to providing this new service to corporations, businesses and other organizations, both large and small.

We are very excited about the positive changes we have implemented.  We look forward to working with you when our services can be of use.

Ethics – Is a Double Standard Acceptable?

I admit that watching events over the last weeks and months has been interesting because one thought has come to mind. We apparently have some folks held to a higher ethical standard than others.
The success to problem solving lies primarily in correctly identifying the real source of the issue and engaging in a collaborative approach to implement realistic and long lasting solutions. But another key component is whether you, as the leader of your organization, are seen as an honorable and ethical individual. Why? What motivation is there for your staff to follow you if you are perceived as unethical? What if you are perceived as having a personal agenda that will undermine any solution supported and implemented by your staff? In today’s world of instant news via social media, even a momentary lapse in ethical judgment can be devastating to any serious attempt to resolve problems.
In your organization are all held to the same ethical standard? Or are some held to a higher standard than others? If the latter one applies to your organization and you’re okay with it, good luck in finding reasonable and realistic solutions to your problems.  Accepting a double standard on ethical behavior will serve only to eventually undermine the credibility of the leadership,  the reasonable expectation by employees that ethical conduct is valued, and will create an organizational culture that does not value or insure success.